FRAL - Appel Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

Couples lived (in)equalities at work and home – COUPLE_LIFE

Submission summary

In most industrialized countries, including France and Germany, dual-earner couples are the norm. Nevertheless, gender differences in income persist, and women's relative time investment in unpaid household work has remained significantly higher. Economic and psychological research often assumes that career decisions and the relative amount of time spent in the work and non-work spheres are individual choices. From a systemic perspective, however, it is likely that couples influence each other's decisions. Gendered norms experienced at home or work might thus crossover on partners and reinforce gendered cultural practices.

In this research program, we draw on theories from economics and psychology to examine household decisions and behaviors by couples to better understand how and why (in)equality occurs and persists. First, we will focus on career expectations and labor market participation. We will examine the extent to which beliefs about the other partner’s income opportunities and risk aversion are accurate, and whether more gendered beliefs lead to less efficient time allocation. In addition, we will examine how in particular male partners' career orientation affects female partners' career expectations. Second, we will focus on how potentially strenuous labor market experiences of one partner affects partners. We will examine how work-related exhaustion crosses over to the partner, and explore if mutual support provision is affected by traditional role attitudes. We will further examine how individuals take into account their partner's income (in)stability when making their own labor decisions and whether these effects are symmetric for men and women. Third, we will study work-related and family-related cultural norms and how these are enacted. In particular, we will focus on how discouragement by mothers of fathers' childcare activities at home can set in motion dysfunctional cycles of disengagement. We will finally study whether the persistence of gender norms depends on the life domain they refer to (work, family) and the couples’ country of residence.

Methodologically, the research program combines experimental laboratory approaches, daily and weekly diary surveys as well as longitudinal questionnaires and interview studies. In all parts of the project, we adopt a true dyadic perspective by examining the behavior and experiences of actual cohabiting couples.

Project coordination

Astrid Hopfensitz (early makers group)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


RWTH Aachen University RWTH Aachen University
EMG early makers group

Help of the ANR 708,876 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: August 2024 - 36 Months

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